Melinda Gates

To implement Beti Bachao Beti Padhao, here are a few simple steps India can take
March 14, 2015, 12:04 AM IST Melinda Gates in TOI Edit Page | Edit Page, India | TOI
When PM Modi laun- ched the Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao programme earlier this year, he sent a powerful message to Indians that the future of the country depends on justice for the girl child. There are a few key steps we can take to make sure that women and girls are able to reach their potential.
For example, India must do more to stop early and forced marriage. Almost half of Indian women are married before the age of 18, which leads to a number of negative consequences. It’s especially important to make sure that girls aren’t getting pregnant when their bodies aren’t yet ready for the rigours of childbirth.
In my travels to India over the years, i have met several very young brides. The first thing these girls tell me is how sad they are that they have to leave school. There is very little that violates the spirit of human potential more than a young girl who should be in school but is pregnant instead.
Girls between the ages of 15 and 19 are twice as likely as older women to die in childbirth. India’s high rates of child marriage are one reason why risk of maternal death in India is 1 in 190, compared to 1 in 7,300 in developed nations. Babies born to young mothers are not only more likely to die as children but also more likely to weigh less when they are born. And babies that start with a low birth weight are less likely to achieve their full potential when they grow up.
Girls need good information about how to plan their families, access to a range of contraceptives that meet their unique needs, and high-quality medical care to make sure they can follow through on their plans safely and with confidence.
In India, sterilisation is the most common method of family planning and 77% of the women who get sterilised have never used any other method, meaning they did no planning until they decided they no longer wanted children. Desire for sons often results in young mothers being forced to have another pregnancy soon after giving birth to a daughter. But women need to be able to space their pregnancies several years apart if they want to keep themselves and their newborns healthy.
The Indian government and many state governments are increasing investments in family planning – not just in the quantity of family planning services available, but in their quality as well. But there is more to do. The number of young girls reaching childbearing age is growing so fast that supply of family planning information and contraceptives is not keeping up with demand.
The PM has made it abundantly clear that his vision for India’s future includes women and the girl child on equal terms. This September the UN will announce a new set of global development goals, to which India will be a signatory. This presents an opportunity for the Indian government to reaffirm its commitment to gender equality.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.

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